Sam K: I’m Stressed, But I’m Alive, & Might I Say Thriving?

On any given day, when someone asks how I am doing, my subconscious usually blurts out “I’m stressed!!!” before realizing the socially acceptable response is actually just “I’m good, and you?” But I am not one to hide how I am feeling, and I am constantly stressed. With two jobs, an internship, an executive board position on Off The Cuff, a full course load, and now and then even a social life, I am often asked how I still manage to function, let alone sleep or eat. My answer? I have embarked on my own “hero’s journey” where finding the time to complete my responsibilities while staying healthy (mentally and physically) is my ultimate bounty. In my final semester of college, I have finally found how to manage my stress and morph it into a healthy balance of drive, productivity, and overall happiness.

Stress can be all-consuming, and it may seem like there is no time in the day to accomplish everything life throws at you and take a moment for yourself. However, I believe that failure will catch up to you if you don’t learn how to co-manage responsibilities and self care. People cope with stress in so many different ways, and to do it right you really need to be in touch with what ultimately makes you the happiest and most satisfied version of yourself. For some, this is taking a long walk in silence to clear your head and center your mind and body. For others, it is motivating yourself with an XL chocolate chip cookie that you’re not allowed to dive into until after cranking out your 10 page paper. Sometimes, taking care of yourself means simply laying on the floor of your apartment next to a pint of low calorie, dairy free ice cream while listening to calming yoga music (this one comes from experience).

Deciding what I value and the tiny things that make me happy was the first step I took in managing my own stress. I racked my brain for examples of when I was the most unfulfilled —back to the days when I was so stressed that my eyelashes were falling out and I didn’t have time to cook anything besides oatmeal—and realized what was missing from these moments. I was overlooking everything I enjoyed in order to get everything else done. In retrospect, I don’t even remember the outcome of all the things I had on my plate during those darker days, but I do remember how heavy the weight of the stress felt upon me. This could’ve been prevented if I prioritized myself as highly as I set the tasks that, now looking back, weren’t even that important.

I discovered that I am happiest when I am healthiest and when I am able to talk through my ups and downs with others. Trips to Trader Joe’s excite me, and a nice, sweaty workout makes me feel whole again. Skimming cooking videos on Instagram brings a smile to my face, and sitting at a coffee table with my friend discussing our futures (scary) helps keep me on my feet. I was letting these things go in order to finish my homework and my readings and get to work on time and be a good intern and edit articles for the magazine and keep myself from eating fast food and maintaining old friendships and so on and so forth. I wasn’t taking care of myself, nor was I conquering the small victories that keep me feeling fulfilled.

Long story short, there is no worth in letting your stress consume you to the point where you put aside your health and happiness. Make lists, multitask —I’m writing this very blog post on a bike on the second floor of Fitrec—eat your veggies, call your mom, and make time for your friends. In the end, you probably won’t even remember the tasks caused eyelashes to fall out (again, from personal experience), but you will remember the happiness, or lack there of, that dictated some of the most important years of your life.

I hope everyone can find their own XL cookie kind of coping mechanism.

Sam: How I Discovered What I ***DON’T*** Want to Do (And How You Can Too)

Me— 18, naive, senior in high school: “I will attend Boston University’s College of Communication, and I will be a world renowned journalist!” 

Me— 20, still naive, sophomore in college: “I have absolutely no desire to go into journalism, but good thing I love advertising! I’m going to be a copywriter at a big-city agency!”

Me — 21, STILL naive (and questioning if I will ever grow out of it), 3 months before graduating: “I. Have. NO IDEA. What I want to be.”

I wish I was the kid that came out of the womb knowing I was going to be an anesthesiologist, or the one who after watching my first episode of Law and Order: SVU was already on track to law school. But alas, senior year of high school I was amongst the vast majority, unprepared for my newly deemed adult-status and unaware of what my future would hold. I decided that my love for writing would have to get me through, so I chose to study journalism and dreamed of being the next Ann Shoket (former editor in chief of 17 Magazine, which I was a proud subscriber of). However, not too long into COM 101 I realized that loving something and being decent at something were two very different things, so I moved on, searching for the next path that could take me to my desired future of fulfilling contentment.

If I knew anything about my future, it was that I wanted to do something creative; I fluidly moved on from journalism to advertising, and thought I had found my next dream job. I took creative courses and joined extracurriculars, trying to hone my new passion for copywriting and design. However, this was only the beginning of years of “guess and check” where I tried to force myself into loving something that I didn't in turn love. Between classes, internships and everything else, I found out exactly what I do not want to pursue as a career. 

So now I’m here, the future looming over me like a cloudy crystal ball, with no idea of what I want to do and a million ideas of what I don’t. But instead of feeling as though my trials and errors were wasted time, I am grateful for the failures that I have experienced that have helped develop exactly who I do want to be. I have found that learning what I don't like to do helps narrow down everything that I enjoy. So while I may not know what will come in the new year, I do know with great confidence that I will not go to law school, join a team at a big-city agency, become an anesthesiologist, or work as a renowned journalist any time soon. 

Sam: How to be the Best Boston Tour Guide

***Disclaimer: In the following paragraph I am not, in any way, alluding to having an excessive number of friends. Not even close. Rather, I am saying that people always want an excuse to go somewhere new, especially if they have a couch to crash on…and I have a couch.*** 

Just like what seems like 50% of the population of BU students, I was born and raised in California where the tacos are abundant and the sun endlessly shines. To my peers at home, moving to Boston was bold and risky, and most of them chose to continue their studies on the West coast. That means that every winter break, spring break, president’s break or long weekend, someone— a close friend, family member or mere acquaintance— reaches out asking if they can crash on my couch and if I can show them around the city. With the experience I have gained from entertaining a plethora of visitors over the last three years, I have finally perfected a foolproof Boston route and am, in my opinion, the best tour guide.

While every tour I give is personalized to the visitor, mine all start in the same place: on campus. If my guest is interested in seeing BU’s campus (like my mom, a prospective student or my best friend) I like to start in central campus and work my way east, making sure to stop by the esplanade and the COM building. If my guest has little interest in seeing BU up close and personal, I hop on the green line inbound to Copley and point out my favorite buildings on the way. 

Copley Square is always my first stop on my tours because of the blend of contemporary and historical architecture that represent the city of Boston so well. I love pointing out Trinity Church and cruising through the Boston Public Library to admire the beautiful building and garden.

From Copley I usually cut over to Newbury Street because it’s always pretty, rain or shine, and has stores and restaurants that can please even the pickiest visitors. Trident Booksellers Cafe and Newbury Comics are two fun, unique stores that I love to show my friends and family.

Next, I walk one street over to stroll down the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, a greenway surrounded by trees, which is particularly picturesque during the fall months. This pathway, which exhibits an array of statues of historical figures, leads all the way to the Boston Public Garden, the next stop. 

The Boston Public Garden is beautiful anytime of year, but particularly during the spring and summer when the swan boats float through the lagoon. During warmer months, this is a perfect destination to sit, relax and watch the passersby.

Then, I easily cross from the garden to the Boston Common to take pictures in front of the Massachusetts State House and its iconic golden dome. I then follow the engaging, historical Freedom Trail from the common to Faneuil Hall, where you can pick up a snack in the bustling Quincy Market, do some more shopping or pass through to the next destination.

From Faneuil Hall you're only steps away from the best Italian food in Boston, located in the North End. An authentic pasta dinner is a perfect way to end a bustling day of tourism, or you can continue to the harbor to look at the serene water. After racking up a good 10,000 steps and enjoying some delicious food, this is usually my last stop before making my way back home (via train or Uber).

These are only just a few of the several landmarks and locations that Boston has to offer; alternative or additional tour destinations include Brookline, Fenway, Cambridge, China Town and the Seaport, which can all be tailored to the weather or the preferences of the guest.

Sam: On-campus vs. Off: A Housing Battle

Living on campus certainly has its perks—you’re closer to classes, have easy access to the dining halls and you’re surrounded by your peers aka potential new friends. But moving off campus provides you with something we all came to college looking for…freedom!! Freedom to blast your music without the fear of getting written up, to cook whatever you're craving for dinner and to have as many guests as you want without having to fill out a three day pass. But there’s more to it than just food and friends, so which housing option is superior?

Being that it is the time of the year when you must decide whether you want to take your chances with the BU housing lottery or hunt down a realtor to help you find your perfect apartment, I put on and off-campus living in a head to head battle to see which one is better.

Cooking off-campus is fun because you’re free to exercise your inner Ina Garten and make whichever delicious creations you crave. That is, fun until you run out of food and have to make a meal out of bell peppers, peanut butter and flavor blasted gold fish. Being sans dining hall means sometimes you’ll eat anything to avoid going back outside to Star Market.

When you live on campus (and have a dining plan), all the prepping, cooking and cleaning up is done for you. That sounds like a dream come true, except, how many days a week can you eat dining hall rotisserie chicken before wishing you could cook your own meal?

Resident Assistants are a great resource to reach out to if you need help with something, and they can definitely make you feel more secure when living on campus. Also, when else in your adult life will you be able to borrow a key when you lock yourself out, get a leak fixed or have someone change your lightbulb with such ease? 

However, life without an RA means you don’t have to be quiet after a designated hour (except if you have moody neighbors, then you should be quiet) and allows you to live out your adult life with all of the freedom you desire. That means coffee makers, toasters and candles galore! 

There is really no way to sugar coat sharing a bathroom with a floor full of girls and boys. People are gross, you can’t deny it. The only good things that come out of a shared bathroom experience are the pleasantries you exchange with someone who has the same bathroom schedule as you (potential new friend!) and the blessing that you never have to clean it yourself.

Unless your roommates are truly foul, which you can avoid by a) living with people who are not foul or b) having a discussion about being less foul, sharing a bathroom with a handful of roommates is a breeze. Nothing is better than throwing away your shower shoes from Warren Towers and never turning back.

It’s pretty hard to choose which housing option comes out on top, but in the end it depends on what matters to you most and what you’re willing to sacrifice when staying on, or moving off campus (I miss you dining hall apple crisp). I call this one a tie.